Big 12 College Basketball Futures Betting: Can Texas or Kansas Catch Baylor?
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jared Butler.
The Big 12 is one of college basketball’s two best conferences this season, alongside the Big Ten, yet the chase for the regular-season Big 12 championship is relatively stale.
In recent history, Kansas has dominated the league, winning the conference crown outright in 15 of the 23 years the league has existed. This season, though, it’s a new team with a stranglehold on the top of the standings.
The conference championship is Baylor’s to lose, though there are plenty of talented teams nipping at the Bears’ heels.
Which of those teams is worth wagering on in the race to catch Baylor and win the Big 12 championship in this uncertain and wild season?
Baylor, 15-0 (8-0)
The odds do not show great value here, but based on Baylor’s play this season, that’s well earned.
It would be a surprise if Baylor did not hold on to win the Big 12 crown. The Bears are undefeated, both overall and in conference, with nine conference games left on the slate.
Based on the difficulty of the schedule, it would be a surprise to see Baylor run the table.
To date, Baylor has played the easiest Big 12 schedule, per KenPom, which projects Baylor to lose twice in its final nine games.
The Bears have four road games against top-20 KenPom teams lurking in Big 12 play. In the month of February, Baylor will travel to Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas. Those are the most likely losses on the schedule, yet it’s certainly possible for Texas Tech or West Virginia to go into Waco and steal a win.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume Baylor can lose as many as four games the rest of the way. There are currently only three other teams with fewer than four Big 12 losses right now.
That makes Baylor’s chances to hold on, even with slip-ups, fairly solid. The -250 odds aren’t enticing, though this could make for an interesting inclusion in a parlay.
Texas, 11-3 (5-2)
The Longhorns have two things in their favor in their quest to steal the Big 12 title from Baylor.
First, Texas sits in solo second place in the standings as the only Big 12 team with two conference losses. That gives Shaka Smart and company the best chance to keep pace with Baylor.
Perhaps more importantly, the schedule is currently set up in Texas’ favor. The Big 12 built a double round-robin format, with every team playing nine home-and-home series within the conference.
Texas’ trip to Baylor in early December was postponed due to COVID-19 issues. The league did leave open space on the calendar in early March for make-up games.
Yet as currently structured, these teams will play only once and will do so in Austin. If Texas can defend its home court, the Longhorns will pull to just one game behind Baylor in the standings.
At the very least, if the postponed game is rescheduled, Texas could have a chance to enter the make-up game with the tiebreaker in hand.
Kansas, 11-5 (5-4)
Since 2004, Kansas has won or shared all but one Big 12 regular-season title. In past years, when that streak looked in jeopardy, Bill Self and his team still found a way to claw to the top of the standings by season’s end.
This year, the Jayhawks’ chances to win the Big 12 again appear to be in trouble. Kansas is just 4-4 in conference, reeling after three straight road losses. There’s good news for Kansas on the horizon, however.
The Jayhawks have played the toughest conference schedule so far. The back half of their conference slate only includes four road games, compared to six games comfortably at Allen Fieldhouse.
But with Baylor four games clear of Kansas right now, the Jayhawks would have to run the table or nearly do so.
If you believe Self and Allen Fieldhouse have some magic left in their arsenal, these odds might entice you, though they are far too low for my liking.
West Virginia, 11-4 (4-3)
The Mountaineers are the only relative long shot worth your attention. Bob Huggins’ squad has only three losses so far in conference and holds a leg up over other Big 12 teams currently being offered at shorter odds.
Unlike Oklahoma (+850) and Texas Tech (+900), West Virginia has not played Baylor yet. The Sooners and Red Raiders both dropped their meetings with the first-place Bears earlier this month.
West Virginia, however, will get two cracks at the top dog. The Bears and Mountaineers will play each other twice in a row during the week of Feb. 15. If Bob Huggins finds a way to crack Baylor that no other coach has, West Virginia could conceivably make up two games in just one week.
While no one ever wants to root for an injury or COVID-19 concerns, the possibility of either of those affecting Baylor makes West Virginia’s upcoming, uncertain meetings with the Bears more valuable.
If there’s any team in the conference worth betting, other than trying to cash in on Baylor as a sure thing, it’s West Virginia.